100,000 Cows Freeze to Death in Freak Record-Breaking Snowstorm

Tens of thousands of cattle perished in a freak snowstorm during the first weekend in October in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. That’s incredible, and yet the story is getting surprisingly little attention.

An unexpectedly early and brutal blizzard struck states from the Northern High Plains to the Rocky Mountains on October 4th and 5th, leaving up to five feet of snow on the ground. The storm’s howling winds proved to be a death knell for an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 defenseless cattle.

First the poor creatures were pelted with rain, 12 hours of it, until their coats were waterlogged. Then came 48 hours of snow, 60 to 70 mph winds and freezing temperatures. Cattle wandered, cold, wet, covered with ice and confused. They huddled together at fence lines for warmth. Snow drifted to heights of 10 feet or more. Eventually, the cattle dropped where they stood, by the thousands, and the snow buried them.

In the aftermath, bodies were everywhere. Black hooves and legs stuck up out of the snow, grotesquely marking the spots where cows and calves finally collapsed and froze to death.

“They’re in the fence line, laying alongside the roads,” Martha Wierzbicki, emergency management director for Butte County, S.D., told the Billings Gazette. “It’s really sickening.”

The unfortunate cows were ill-equipped to face this sudden snow because they hadn’t grown their winter coats yet. Compounding the problem, the weather’s been good recently, so ranchers hadn’t yet moved the cattle to their wintertime grazing locations which tend to have more gullies and trees. The cows were still in their open, flat summer pastures at this time of year, which is normally as it should be.

Heavy, sustained blizzards during the first week of October just don’t happen in South Dakota and Wyoming. Only days earlier, temperatures had been in the 80s. The odd weather, dubbed “Winter Storm Atlas,” caught ranchers flatfooted.

It’s not that they didn’t want to take care of their cattle. They did — those animals are their livelihood, after all. This storm was a record-breaker, however. It defied weather predictions and hit with unexpected force and longevity. Ranchers simply didn’t have time to move their cattle to more protected areas.

“It’s bad. It’s really bad. I’m the eternal optimist and this is really bad,” 60-year-old rancher Gary Cammack told the Associated Press. “The livestock loss is just catastrophic…. It’s pretty unbelievable. It’s the worst early season snowstorm I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

See news coverage about the deaths of these cattle here:

“It’s not uncommon at this point to find cattle that are five miles from where they should be,” rancher David Uhrig told the Billings Gazette. “Which doesn’t seem like a lot, but to drift five miles in a storm — that’s a lot.”

The devastation affects approximately 6,000 ranching operations. Some ranchers have yet to find any of their cattle alive, according to reports. Experts are calling it South Dakota’s worst economic crisis in decades. Sadly, many of these cows had just been brought to this area from Texas to escape drought conditions there.

With the federal government in shutdown mode, the problem is made infinitely worse. The employees of federal agencies which the affected ranchers would turn to for information and advice are furloughed. They want to help but they can’t.

It’s worth noting that some federal workers were allowed to do their jobs during this epic snowstorm, and did so admirably. When roads became impassible, dedicated employees of the National Weather Service in Rapid City, S.D., actually hiked to work in the blizzard. They remained at their office around the clock for the entire weekend in order to get lifesaving weather information out to the public. Of course, they weren’t being paid at the time and still aren’t.

In the absence of federal government help in this crisis, all the ranchers can do for the moment is sort out whose cattle are whose and get the carcasses disposed of before they rot where they lie.

Some wonder whether the arrival of a storm this catastrophic so early in the season is yet another red flag waving frantically to alert us that climate change is real and is happening all around us. For example, ClimateCentral.com indicates in a response to a comment about this snowstorm, “[U]nusually heavy snowstorms like this one, which broke all-time records, are not inconsistent with what we’re already seeing due to manmade global warming—increased extreme precip events.”

This bizarre weather incident may simply be an aberration. Odd things happen, after all. On the other hand, last year at this time, South Dakota was worried about drought conditions.

Could Winter Storm Atlas be yet another symptom of the inexorable advance of climate change? Is wacky, unpredictable killer weather becoming more and more common, or are we just noticing it more these days?

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Dexter F
Dexter F.4 months ago

The last flood like this was in the 1920's. Was it caused by climate change back then? Nevertheless we need to pray for these good people and their ranches and herds. This is a serious disaster and one that the mainstream media does not seem to care about. I guess because the people who supply our food are mostly God fearing Americans.

Kelly S
Past Member about a year ago

sick!!! so sad!

Aaron J
Aaron Johnson2 years ago

Loss of cattle? I can't believe that snowstorm has wiped them out. That's a total loss of our dairy industry, and the meat industry. If there's no way to recover from loss of cattle, why don't ranchers implement a dairy-free supply that will replace cattle by planting crops instead. Dairy farms are too expensive to run.

Paul G.
Paul G3 years ago

See GeoEngineeringwatch.org
This due to government project gone wrong.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Chris C.
Chris C.3 years ago

There's 2 things causing climate change , massive methane emissions and the earths
new axis

Stefan M.
Adolf Hitler4 years ago

Laura C.

"Or maybe they are all listening to Fox news and still refusing to believe there is anything wrong with the climate."

Actually, if they HAD listened to Fox news, they might have been warned on time - it's those who listened to the "Manmade Global Warming" garbage that will have been caught off-guard, just like everyone in the UK!

According to the AGW crowd, the planet is supposed to be WARMING, not cooling!

They predicted HOT summers and MILD winters, not freezing cold!

Because those predictions were so obviously false, they switched from Global Warming to "Climate Change", which is ridiculous - the climate is ALWAYS changing,, because it is a hyper-complex system.

It cannot remain stable for any length of time.

According to the AGW propagandists, warmer weather or colder weather is all supporting their fake models.

Which is WRONG. Their models made very specific predictions and they do not include the observed events.

If you had watched Fox (which I don't - I'm Swiss), you might have heard that the planet is entering a COOLING phase, because the sun's emissions are getting weaker. The sun is entering a period of very low activity, as in the 17th and 18th century (the Dalton and Mauder minimum).

I presume that Fox might report this, because they are not on the AGW bandwagon - hence the hatred from those who are.

Left-wing people claim to be "tolerant" of different views, but always go nuts when they realize that there are people who r

Carrie-Anne Brown

so sad but thanks for sharing, RIP

Rosa Caldwell
Rosa Caldwell5 years ago

This saddens me. It is sickening. I cannot even imagine what a torture this was to have happen. Jut outrageous, no sense in it. I can't believe that they were not prepared for the weather. If you have animals, you need to be prepared to take care of them. Please do not let them suffer the way these 100,000 cows obviously did. What are we teaching our children to let something like this happen. Then we want to know why some kids grow up and don't respect animals and that in turn sometimes leads to crimes and violence toward humans. Please be responsible. Take care of the livestock. Treat it with respect.

Lauren C.
Lauren K5 years ago

David B. I sure hope you don't live in a house, because guess what used to be in place of your house? Wildlife! So why don't you do what you beg the farmers to do and move out of the comfort of your home, tear it down and give it back to the animals?